Will tolls and ferry fares go up? State Transportation Commission starts the process Tuesday

The state Transportation Commission, which has jurisdiction over state-highway tolls (including the Highway 99 tunnel) and ferry fares, has a special meeting tomorrow to talk about increases/changes. Here’s the announcement:

The Washington State Transportation Commission is holding a special meeting to begin its process to increase toll rates on some tolled facilities and to adjust Washington State Ferry fares, based upon the final transportation budget passed by the Legislature in the 2021 session.

The special meeting will take place from 9 a.m. to noon, Tuesday, May 11. Due to limitations on the size of gatherings in response to COVID-19, this meeting will be conducted virtually using Zoom Webinar. People interested in attending can register on the commission’s website. The meeting will be broadcast live on TVW at tvw.org.

In the final 2021-2023 Transportation Budget, the Legislature provided funding to relieve the financial pressure on tolled facilities resulting from reduced traffic volumes during the COVID-19 pandemic. The commission had recently discussed the possibility of raising some tolls as soon as July 1 of this year. With the funding provided by the Legislature, the commission has additional time to go through its regular rate setting and public outreach process, moving the effective date for potential rate increases to Oct. 1, 2021.

During its meeting, the commission will receive financial updates for Washington State Ferries, as well as the State Route 99 tunnel, the SR 520 bridge, and the SR 16 Tacoma Narrows Bridge. Discussions will focus on various toll rate scenarios and approaches to generating the needed toll revenues to cover legally required costs. Those costs include debt payments, toll operations, and maintenance and preservation of the tolled facilities. The commission will also determine its schedule and process for adjusting the toll rates, including opportunities for the public to comment on the options under consideration. The commission will discuss its schedule and process for adjusting ferry fares at its May 18 meeting. The commission is expected to release its proposed ferry fare increases during its June 15 meeting and proposed toll rate increases at its July 20 meeting.

The meeting agenda is here. Public comments/questions will be accepted during the meeting via an onscreen Q&A option for Zoom attendees.

10 Replies to "Will tolls and ferry fares go up? State Transportation Commission starts the process Tuesday"

  • Al King May 10, 2021 (4:27 pm)

    Yes. Tolls and fares are GUARENTEED to go up. The question will be by how much. Will be interesting to see how much traffic will divert to other streets when tolls go up. Ferry riders: sorry ,you’re stuck.  

  • Jort May 10, 2021 (4:38 pm)

     In order to meet our climate goals, it is time for the automobile fares on ferries to go up, perhaps somewhere around a 5,000 percent increase, and for walk-on passengers and bikes to be able to ride for free. For all of the haranguing of cyclists to “pay their fair share” for using roads (which they quite easily already do), I sure don’t seem to see car drivers demanding that same level of equity for vehicle fares on the ferries. The cost of transportation a single human being is dwarfed by the magnificently gigantic costs of transporting vehicles across the sound. In fact, walk-on passenger fares very unfairly subsidize the expense of transporting the full-size vehicles. The state should be encouraging fewer car rides and more passenger rides, and a great way to do that is to start charging car drivers for their catastrophic impacts on global climate change.

  • Mj May 10, 2021 (6:09 pm)

    Jort – The fairbox recovery was 72.5% in FY19 for the WSDoT Ferry system.  This recovery rate is far greater than what Metro Transit achieves.

  • Kalo May 10, 2021 (6:35 pm)

    Jort – just how do cyclists “quite already” pay their fare share? 

    • Reed May 11, 2021 (5:32 am)

      Because the vast majority of us who ride bikes also pay property taxes.

  • Eldorado May 10, 2021 (8:12 pm)

    Now you realize ‘some’ people ride the ferry to say go to Olympic National Park. Or Bainbridge Residents use it to say, go to Mt. Rainier… like actual people do this. Commerce that goes along with people enjoying themselves… sporting events, restaurants (especially now,) I agree with your premise though, but ‘progress is slow’. Exaggerate all you want, but 5,000 percent is not sustainable.  That said… yes to free ‘walk on’ passengers. Yes to free cyclists. But better to invest in Gas-Free ferry boats that increase cost for ridership. That mentality will put WSF’s out of business. But keep up your points of view. We all appreciate what you posit on this blog. 

    • Jort May 10, 2021 (8:51 pm)

      I just threw 5,000 percent out there, just a suggestion, but I imagine that forcing the drivers to pay their own way so that pedestrians and bikes can ride for free is going to result in some increases. There can be a discount for electric vehicles, though! 

      • Eldorado May 10, 2021 (9:29 pm)


  • Mj May 10, 2021 (10:20 pm)

    Al King one way WSDoT could raise toll revenue on the SR 99 tunnel is to push SDoT to expedite the repair of the WSB whose paying customers are stuck on an island!

    • Jort May 11, 2021 (1:10 pm)

      They’ll repair the bridge at an appropriate schedule and cadence and won’t be moving faster just because people online are mad about it.

Sorry, comment time is over.